One day, a group
of early settlers wandered into the land between two rivers. No one
knows for sure, but there may have been a small band of people already
living in the area. If so, the settlers quickly took over. They were
real pioneers. They built permanent homes of sun-dried bricks made of
mud and straw, and started a new life in the southern region of ancient
The people who settled
down and began to develop a civilization, in the land between two
rivers, are known as the Sumerians.
civilization probably began around 5000 BCE. In the beginning, they were
community. They grew crops
and stored food for times of need.
Inventions: The ancient Sumerians were very smart. They
invented, amongst other things, the wheel, the sailboat, and the first
written language, frying pans, razors, cosmetic sets, shepherd’s
pipes, harps, kilns to cook bricks and pottery, bronze hand tools like
hammers and axes, the plow, the plow seeder, and the first superhero, Gilgamesh.
They invented a system
of mathematics based on the number 60. Today, we divide an hour into 60
minutes, and a minute into 60 seconds. That comes from the ancient
Some Mesopotamian words
are still in use today. Words like crocus, which is a flower, and
saffron, which is a spice, are words borrowed from the ancient
Ancient Sumer was a bustling place of three or four hundred
people. (Just kidding.) The ancient Sumerians built many cities along
the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. Archaeologists believe that their
largest city, the city of Ur, had a population of around 24,000
As Time Went On
... About a thousand years later, the Babylonians
took over in the south, and the Assyrians
took over in the north, but the Sumerian culture lived on.
The ancient Mesopotamians created a government that was a
combination of monarchy and democracy. Kings ruled the people. Elected
officials who served in the Assembly also ruled the people. Even kings
had to ask the Assembly for permission to do certain things.
and Order: Law held a special place in their civilization.
Sumerian laws were not written down, but people knew what they were and
they knew what could happen to you if you broke the law. The Sumerian
laws clearly said how you had to behave and what your punishment would
be if you did not behave correctly. The laws that were later written
down by the ancient Babylonians were, for the most part, laws first
created by the ancient Sumerians.
You can see why we say
that these were extremely clever people. We owe them a lot!
Life in Ancient Sumer: in Ancient Sumer:
Explore the links below to learn about ancient Sumerian daily life.
Royal Tombs at Ur